Tony Becca | Looking for some gifted cricketers
A week ago, it was Old Year's Night, or Watch Night, or New Year's Eve, a night when it is the custom of people from all around the world to pause for a while, fill their glasses with the 'bubbly', and then raise them in a wish for the best in the coming year.
And normally, it is a wish for anything, including good health, more money to purchase a bigger house, a bigger and better car, and, generally, to buy them a better life.
I have made a wish on many occasions, and despite not getting anything that I had wished for in the past, when the clock inched towards midnight last Saturday, I dutifully wished for something dear to my heart one more time.
This time, I know that what I wished for is almost impossible. I know that good or great cricketers do not drop from trees like coconuts, and also that if, by some miracle, that were to happen, one would need to have a good and knowledgeable West Indies Cricket Board that could find the right selectors to go through the lot and pick out the best nuts from the crop.
One would also need a good management team, a good coach, or a few good coaches, and a good manager to guide their full development, people who the players would respect and who also had respect for the players.
And one would also need a good batch of young cricketers from which to select.
That is why, maybe, I should have made another wish, or two, or even three. I probably should also have wished for a board that would guide West Indies cricket through the New Year and beyond without too many conflicts, for a solid group of selectors, coaches, etcetera, etcetera, and for some good, promising, and dedicated cricketers.
According to custom, however, it is usually one wish at a time, and this one, bearing in mind that the responsibility is on the players to perform, is for a vastly talented team of players, a set of players that can overcome the burden of a generally stifling administration despite its contribution of more pay for more players, a semi-professional league, and a home-and-away domestic competition.
As the West Indies enter the New Year, and despite the conflicts, make a determined bid to correct the failures of the past and to walk in the steps of their not too immediate predecessors of the 1960s, the 1980s, and the early 1990s, I beseech the powers that be to select some players who are dreaming of the glorious days of the past and who are willing to put in the time and the effort to achieve them.
GIFTED YOUNG PLAYERS
The West Indies need their most gifted young players who will develop into the masters who will carry the baton. They do not need run-of-the-mill donkeys who, at their best, will struggle breathlessly to reach the tape if they manage to make it that far.
Some will be hard workers, and some will be - like Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Wes Hall, Lance Gibbs, Clive Lloyd, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran, Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, and Brian Lara - simply geniuses of the bat and ball, as well, for some of them, in the field also, fielders like Roger Harper, Faoud Bacchus, and Gus Logie.
Of the present performers, Kraigg Brathwaite must stay, but not as a part-time off-spinner who sometimes comes into the attack even before one who is selected as a bowler.
His batting as an opener, though disappointingly slow at times, is important, and he has also shown the tendency to get big scores.
While Marlon Samuels may be on his way out, Darren Bravo, despite his century in the first Test recently against Pakistan, is doubtful because of his rash outburst against the West Indies Board president. He is, however, a wonderful player. He needs only to apologise, and particularly as the number three batsman, to score runs with a little more consistency.
Devendra Bishoo must be considered a certainty, but he needs to toughen up a bit, or be used sparingly by his captain, in five or six-over spells usually, or until he comes into conditions that suit his leg-spinners and googlies perfectly.
Shane Dowrich is a wonderful wicketkeeper, and short of finding a Jackie Hendriks with the gloves, a Franz Alexander, or a Deryck Murray as a wicketkeeper/batsman, or a Jeffrey Dujon as a top-class wicketkeeper/batsman, he will have to stay.
Despite the skills of Sonny Ramadhin, Alfred Valentine, and Lance Gibbs, fast bowling is a key to the success of West Indies cricket, and while Alzarro Joseph promises a lot in this respect, and so does Miguel Cummins, we have to hope and pray that Shannon Gabriel maintains his form, that one like Delorn Johnson and another like Marquino Mindley, who promised so much as youngsters, really deliver, and that Reynard Leveridge comes good - and quickly at that.
Time waits on no man.
If the West Indies, but the odd good performance, are really to 'turn the corner' this year, they must find some cricketers, some good cricketers, and they must do so quickly.
Good cricketers do not fall out of trees like coconuts do, but if the selectors have eyes to see, they can see some waiting to be picked.
Roston Chase looks quite good at number six, and after his century innings against India, he does not need a run to prove that he is probably the man. Samuels' place at number four is in trouble, and Jermaine Blackwood needs to buckle down if he is to maintain his place and fulfil his early promise.
Jason Holder, the captain, has not come on as expected, but the selectors will need to think, once, twice, three times before removing him.
Holder was too young and too inexperienced when he was elevated to the captaincy, but probably, there was no other choice. To remove him now, however, when there is no one around, when he is growing in the job, would be a backward step. He was selected as a fast bowler. He has been picking up wickets and is batting fairly well down the order.
The West Indies need to find at least two good fast bowlers so that Holder can be used as the third or fourth pacer.
Looking around, the players who appear capable of filling these places, two, four, and maybe five, should come from Evin Lewis, Tangerine Chanderpaul, Nicolas Pooran, Kyle Hope, Anthony Alleyne, Jahmar Hamilton, and the elegant Brandon King could be the answer.
From all appearances, and from what some good judges have said about him, it seems that young Shimron Hetmyer is also one for tomorrow.
This could be the year that the West Indies have been waiting on since around 1995 to show the world that they are back, or really coming back.
They will, however, need the young, promising, and dedicated cricketers to stand up and deliver consistently and also for the selectors to offer Nikita Miller another chance to prove that he is good enough for that level.
The first-class season is halfway through, and I cannot wait for the other half to see, apart from Trinidad and Tobago's inept performance on a good pitch at Sabina Park and the dismal showing of the Windward Islands, who were dismissed for 64 in 27 overs in less than three hours on a good pitch at Sabina Park, possibly some more wonderful performances from the region's cricketers.
One cannot reasonably expect to build a champion West Indies team without building a champion regional tournament, and without the best playing with and against the best in the best conditions, near to the beach or not, tourists or no tourists.